The Iron Cross in the jack was 5/9ths the height until 1903 and slightly above 2/3rds (226/333, according to Flaggenbuch 1939) thereafter... If I am correct, the jack and [Reichskriegsflagge] canton changed in 1903. Norman Martin, 27 February 2001
Norman Martin's dimensional data above prompted me to have a look in Martin and Dreyhaupt 1999 as well as Flaggenbuch 1939. My executive summary would be that the 1867-1903 jack (and ensign canton) was 2:3 with an iron cross 2/3rds of the hoist, the 1903-1919 jack (and ensign canton) 3:5 with an iron cross 4/5ths of the hoist. Let us see why. Martin and Dreyhaupt 1999 firstly describes the 1867 ensign, saying about its canton that it has three stripes black-white-red, with an iron cross "reaching halfway into each the black and the red stripes". So that is 2/3rds of the height (of the canton). It then describes the 1892 and 1903 changes with no figures. After that (but rather as a different flag category, rather than chronologically) it describes the jack, as a 2:3 flag, with the iron cross occupying "two thirds of the height", and says that it is displayed on the ensign occupying 3/7ths of its height. Both the 2:3 proportions and the 3/7ths jack/ensign hoist ratio make me think that that description corresponds to the 1867-1903 jack.
The flag images on the A3-sized charts in Martin and Dreyhaupt 1999 are quite small (approx. 16 mm high) but allow for some measurement and comparison:
height of iron cross (both jack and ensign)
* actually 0,64 rather than 0,6666...
jack (and ensign canton) proportions
jack height / ensign height
width of ensign cross
inner diameter of ensign disc
After that I had a look in Flaggenbuch 1939, and particularly the Corrections included in the 1992 facsimile edition proved quite conclusive. All the dimensions given there by Neubecker for the Imperial ensign are as the 1903-1919 above, with one exception, the canton appears as 315:495 (almost exactly 7:11) rather than 3:5. The height of the iron cross is 240/315 (0,762...) which is very close to 0,8 or 4/5ths.
As for the "226/333" shown by Flaggenbuch 1939, I would not trust the 1933-1935 ensign as a valid reference for the pre-1919 jack and ensign canton. Flaggenbuch 1939 clearly shows many differences in the latter one size, offset to hoist, white fimbriation around cross on black and red stripes etc.
Finally, none of the Martin and Dreyhaupt 1999 illustrations of the jack and ensign show the iron cross vertically (nor horizontally) offset.
I wonder where did Norman Martin get the information about the 5/9-high iron cross. I seem to recall that that proportion affected only the diameter of white discs on state ensigns etc. I may be wrong though. Santiago Dotor, 28 February 2001
I am sorry, but I do not agree with Santiago Dotor's executive summary. The only debate is on the size of the Iron Cross (in short EK, for eisernes Kreuz). Let me summarize my data and measurements.
First, the official measurements that I have that appear to be relevent fix the height of the EK:
I am struck by the fact that all three which show both the jack and the merchant flag with EK show their Iron Crosses the same height. Note also that the Martin and Dreyhaupt 1999 text cites the merchant flag with EK as having an Iron Cross 5/9 the height even though its illustration measures 0.64. Of course, one cannot rely on the measurements to better than a few hundredths.
My conclusion is that the best estimates are:
Jack 1867 and merchant flag with EK 1867: 0.56~ (i.e. 5/9)
Jack 1903: 0.67~ (i.e. 2/3)
Ensign 1867: 0.64
Ensign 1903: 0.78
Actually intuitively 0.67 would seem better for the 1867 ensign. It would certainly be nice if we could get a larger number of legal specifications. Norman Martin, 2 March 2001
A photograph of troops of the 2. Marinebrigade during the Kapp Putsch 1920: ensign 0.71 (1903)
I am more confused than ever, especially since these are naval flags so that you would expect them to have been issued by the government. Norman Martin, 5 March 2001
The legislation data supplied by Ralf Stelter largely clarifies the issue if we can assume that the jack agreed completely in proportions with the canton of the Kriegsflagge. In that case we have as proportios of the Iron Cross to height:
Do we have anything firm that the jack had the same dimensions as the canton of the Kriegsflagge from 1867-1921? I have a quotation from the 1919 and 1921 ordinances which fix the jack's Iron Cross height at 2/3 and that of 1933 as c.2/3. Norman Martin, 6 March 2001
Ralf Stelter asked, "For 1903 and 1919, I wrote 2/7 H, which makes 2/3 of the canton. So you meant 6/21 not 16/21?". He did write 2/7 H, but he also gave the height of the canton to be 3/8, so that the relative height of the Iron Cross becomes 2/7 divided by 3/8, in other words 16/21 or 0.76. Norman Martin, 7 March 2001
Constitution of 25 June 1867, Art. 55: The flag of the war and the merchant navy is black-white-red.
Allerhöchster Präsidial-Erlass of 4 July 1867 gives a verbal description of the flag in a rather strange way:
The North German war flag consists of a white area with wide stripes of black and white separating the area once in length and once in width in four parts. In the center is the Prussian heraldic eagle on a white circular shield. The upper left corner is striped in the federal colours black-red-white [sic typo!]. On its center the Iron Cross.
No proportions are given. The pilot flag (flag to call for a pilot) was described together with proportions:
A merchant flag (i.e. black-white-red) of smaller format with a white border of the width of a single stripe, that is 1/5 of the flag.
National flag is three equal horizontal stripes, on top black, in the middle red, below golden yellow.
Merchant flag black-white-red, in the upper corner the Reichsfarben, separated from the black stripe on the outer edge by a 2 cm wide vertical white strip. Length of the upper corner including the white strip is equal to the height of the black stripe. The total proportions of the upper corner are 2:3. The flag is of 2:3 proportions.
Merchant flag with Iron Cross is same as merchant flag but with "a white edged black cross in the design of the Iron Cross" placed upon the Reichsfarben. The cross reaches halfway into both the black and golden yellow stripes.
Reichskriegsflagge like merchant flag but with white edged black Iron Cross-like cross in the center, reaching one third into both the black and red stripes. Proportions 3:5.
Verordnung of 14 March 1933: 4. Reichskriegsflagge is of three equal horizontal stripes (...) In the white, offcentered "a little bit to the hoist" a white-edged black cross in the design of the Iron Cross, reaching into the black and red stripes "ca. 1/2".
By these given prescriptions and proportions I can see that even the German flag book, of which Norman Martin kindly sent me photocopies, the flags are not precisely shown (black-red-yellow upper corner too long, and edged white on two sides (?), outer black line around the cross too thick... Ralf Stelter, 6 March 2001
Legislation on the War Jack
On the question of proportions of the German Iron Cross and naval jacks, this is what I have at hand:
Allerhöchster Präsidial-Erlass of 4 July 1867 gives Kriegsflagge, Handelsflagge, Lotsenflagge (flag to call for a pilot), Zollfahrzeuge, Postschiffe, Lotsenschiffe and Flagge für Last-, Arbeits- und gemietete Fahrzeuge der königlichen Marine. No jack is mentioned.
Ausführungsbestimmungen of 15 October 1919 to the decree of 27 September 1919: Jack is 3:5, the Iron Cross is 2/3 of flag's height [i.e. Iron Cross is 2/3 H].
Verordnung of 11 April 1921: Jack the same as merchant flag, the black, white edged cross reaches 1/2 into the upper and lower stripes. Flag's proportions 2:3 [i.e. Iron Cross is 2/3 H].
Verordnung of 14 March 1933: The jack of war ships [I do not know if there was a jack for merchant ships, it is not mentioned in the laws etc.] is the same as the Reichskriegsflagge in smaller dimensions. Thus the cross reaches 1/2 into the upper and lower stripes [i.e. Iron Cross is 2/3 H].
About the merchant flag with Iron Cross:
Bekanntmachung 1 July 1896 to the Allerhöchster Erlass of 1 July 1896 [sic]: Iron Cross diameter is 5/9 of flag's height. The cross reaches 1/3 into the upper and lower stripes. The white edge around the cross is 1/30 of the cross' diameter. The badge [Iron Cross] may not be used in jacks [this is the only mention of dimensions for the white edge, as far as I found].